What your PMS symptoms say about your health & what you can do about it

By Alexandra Vander Baan

Cramps, mood swings, bloating, fatigue, forgetfulness… Your monthly cycle is a natural and beneficial process, PMS is not! Premenstrual symptoms are signs of imbalances and when the body is functioning optimally your period should come and go without a single cramp or rage-filled outburst. Each symptom can indicate a number of imbalances. Learn why you’re experiencing your symptoms and what you can do to eliminate them.

  • Irritability and mood swings 

Why? If you’re prone to irritability and outbursts of anger during or before your period, you are likely dealing, or rather inadequately dealing, with a lot of stress.  When our bodies cannot process the amount of stress we experience it causes stagnation. Ever feel like a pressure cooker about to burst? That’s Qi (vital energy, pronounced “chee”) Stagnation!  Finding appropriate outlets for that energy can help reduce the sensations of restlessness, irritability and mood swings.

What to do? Try incorporating deep breathing techniques into your daily routine. Yoga is a great stress reliever that gets the Qi and blood moving. Consistent acupuncture and herbal medicine can reduce or resolve PMS symptoms and cupping helps to promote circulation to reduce stagnation.

  • Bloating & water retention 

Why? Bloating and water retention are indicators of digestive energy weakness. They are signs that the body is having difficulty metabolizing nutrients and fluids properly. Prior to, and during your period, your body is undergoing a loss of vital energy. If your digestive system is already compromised, you may experience symptoms of bloating and water retention, as well as other symptoms, such as fatigue or malaise.

What to do? Because stress is a common contributor, breathing techniques can help manage stress to allow your digestive system to restore its energy.  In addition, simple dietary modifications such as eat warm, cooked foods; drinking hot water; and avoid cold, iced foods and drinks, dairy and greasy foods, will likely improve these symptoms. Also try adding foods that nourish digestive energy such as roasted root vegetables, broths, soups and whole grains.

  • Fatigue 

Why? If you feel like you’ve been hit with a wave of fatigue before, or during your period, you may be Blood & Qi Deficient. Overtaxing our bodies via overexercising, inadequate nutrition, or chronic work/life stress, can burn out our natural resources. If you deplete those resources without replenishing them with adequate sleep, a nutritious diet, and restorative practices – such as yoga and meditation – symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, and malaise, among others, will emerge; particularly around your period when your body is losing those vital resources.

What to do? To prevent fatigue from overtaking your life during your next cycle, start eating leafy greens, broths and soups, quality meats, such as grass fed beef and pastured chicken and pork. Get adequate rest to balance out your busy day, and get 7-8 hours of sleep to allow your body to regenerate the energy lost daily; especially during your period.

  • Headaches

Why? Headaches during your period could be caused by a number of factors. If it is sharp and stabbing it is likely caused by stagnant blood, caused by stress or injury. Try yoga or light exercise during the month to promote better circulation and add acupuncture to address the local stagnation causing the pain.

If it is associated with fatigue and feels more like an empty or dull headache, it may be a sign of deficient energy.  Try some of the techniques used to treat fatigue.

If it is made worse by stress and is accompanied by irritability, it is a sign that your stress management strategies need improvement.  Try mediation or deep breathing techniques.  Checkout a yoga class or maybe even a boxing class throughout the month.

If you experience pressure headaches with sinus congestion or digestive issues, it may be an indication of poor digestive energy. Try eating warm, cooked foods. Avoid iced drinks, greasy, fried foods and dairy.

  • Painful cramps 

Why? One of the most common reasons for painful cramps is blood stagnation. Chronic stress, coupled with inactivity, can affect proper circulation.  When circulation is significantly obstructed, it results in local, sharp or stabbing pain.

To relieve menstrual pain apply heat and get regular exercise throughout your period. During the rest of the month, cultivate a relaxation practice, whether it be meditation, yoga, or some other creative way that allows your mind to quiet and your body to relax. Regular exercise during the month will also help facilitate proper circulation to prevent future PMS cramping. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are very effective for treating menstrual pain and cramps by promoting healthy blood flow and relaxing the body and mind.

Read more from Alex here.

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